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MADD wants beer industry group investigated.

Associated Press--The Louisiana chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving plans to ask the state Ethics Board to investigate a beer industry group that contributed to political races, but never registered as a political committee.

"Business Affairs Research Program, a group of beer wholesalers, contributed between $48,000 and $64,000 to various candidates last election season alone," MADD state executive director Cathy Childers said Tuesday in announcing the chapter's decision to seek the investigation.

The complaint will be filed in the next two weeks, she said.

If the Ethics Board determines that Business Affairs Research Program is a political committee, it could fine the group $500 for not registering and up to $10,000 for each report the group failed to file, said board attorney Maris McCrory.

McCrory said she could not comment on specific organizations, but said that any group of people "or corporation organized for the primary purpose of supporting or opposing candidates or ballot initiatives" must register with the board if it spends $500 or more in an election cycle.

Business Affairs Research Program is not registered with the Ethics Board, McCrory said.

MADD discovered the existence of Business Affairs Research Program on a campaign finance report filed by then-state Rep. Rob Marionneaux, D-Maringouin, who was in a runoff race for state Senate District 17.

The group gave Marionneaux $2,000 the same day he voted against a MADD-backed bill in May to reduce the state's legal blood-alcohol level used to determine drunken driving from .10 to .08, Childers said.

"When I saw the contribution to Marionneaux, it made me very curious about who else they made contributions to. When I asked the ethics board, I was told there were no records," Childers said.

The public also has a right to know who gives money to the Business Affairs Research Program, Mr. Childers said.

"What's the need for secrecy? We'll never know unless they're classified as a political committee. "Given the recent volume of activity by Business Affairs Research Program and the sizable and timely campaign donations made to select legislators, we feel this entire matter warrants further investigation by the state Board of Ethics," Childers said. "The fact that this group shares its address with the powerful liquor lobby known as the Beer Industry League of Louisiana is also highly suspect," she said.

Beer Industry League director George Brown said in November that Business Affairs Research Program consists of a some beer wholesalers who gathered together six to eight years ago to pool money and make political contributions.

The group is not a political action committee and did not have to register with the Ethics Board, Brown said at the time. In 1977, a federal grand jury indicted Brown and two beer companies for conspiring to bribe state legislators. A judge threw out the charges against the companies, but Brown was sentenced to six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to filing false income tax returns.
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Title Annotation:Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants investigation of Business Affairs Research Program
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Jan 24, 2000
Words:491
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